R.I.P. Hamlin

Today I had to put my cat to sleep. Hamlin, my constant companion for the last twelve years, was a delightful cat. He was actually much more like a dog, docile, loving and always wanting to be close. He loved sitting on my lap when I was sitting, he loved sitting on my stomach when I was lying on my back, and he loved lying on the small of my back when I slept on my stomach.

He was going through one of his things he does, where he just wasn’t that interested in food when I left on vacation for Montana. I told my friend who was looking after him to come by and always give him canned food so he would welcome her presence, and keep dry food and water available at all times. Even so, when I came back, I was shocked at how much thinner he had gotten. He barely acknowledged my return, and went back to lying on the floor, but on Friday he was still alert and able to move around on his own.

Lying on the hardwood floors was something he typically did when it was hot. If it was really hot, he would lie on the bathroom linoleum. It wasn’t that hot when I got back to LA, but it had been. Friday night, the first night I was back, he jumped up on the bed and lay down on my back, and then went back to sleeping on the floor. That was odd.

Saturday I was gone most of the day, but I did notice he wasn’t eating, and he would sniff the water, and only lap it up a few times before wandering off disinterested. Again, he didn’t come sleep with me that night either.

Sunday, we spent the day together. Mainly, he slept under the bed, which he occasionally does just as a new spot to be. Nothing that unusual. He came in the bathroom with me, and seemed to be having a little trouble, but was still having bowel movements. Well, he probably was just eating when I wasn’t looking, then. I was still worried about how thin he was. While under the bed, I placed his food and water dishes within easy distance of him, in case it was where the food was in the hallway that was bothering him. (When he stopped eating once before, it had to do with the food being too close to his litter box, and moving it to a different part of the apartment had him go back to eating again. That, and canned cat food as a special enticement.)

When I was sitting in the living room, watching episodes of True Blood, I noticed he was distinctly having problems moving. His back legs didn’t seem to be working how he wanted them to. I started thinking about taking him to a vet then. I looked on line and the one nearest to me didn’t get good reviews. The only one I have taken him to in LA was actually back over on the West Side, near my old apartment in Palms. By the time I began thinking things were getting bad very quickly, it was already after closing time of the vet hospital for the day. They would be open again at 7 am.

I put Hamlin on the bed with me, because he kept trying to pull himself forward across the floor. His head or legs would fall off whatever he was lying on, and he kept pushing against the food and water. I picked him up and took him to his litter box, where he could no longer stand, but with my help he was able to urinate in the box. Again, if he was urinating, at least things were successfully passing through his system, right?

I set the alarm and dozed while watching a video, and he continued to pull his body across the bed linens. I put my leg between him and the edge of the bed, I was terrified he would fall off the bed and injure himself further. I would wake every time he pulled towards me, sometimes digging his claws weakly into my skin.

At about 1:30 am, his breathing grew labored.  Every time I had looked at him, all day long, his eyes were open. He wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t relaxing, he was just trying to survive. But he was hanging on.

In the car, in rush hour traffic, lying on the passenger seat, he seemed even worse. I couldn’t see his side moving to breathe. His gums were white. And every once in a while, his head would jerk and he took a breath. But then again, after a few cross country trips, Hamlin doesn’t like being in the car, and finds going to the vet very stressful.

We arrived at the vet’s, still too early for them to be open. I realized I had put my shirt on inside out, in my rush to get ready and out of the house. As we sat waiting for the staff to arrive, I could see him breathing in a regular slow pattern again. We were the first ones in. Without an appointment, they still saw us. The doctor took notes. They were going to have to draw blood before they would know what to do next. The proposed treatment they gave me was more money than I had available to me. And no, they didn’t do any sort of payment plan. Perhaps I could borrow some money? Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad.  Maybe blood work and then fluids were all that he would need. They would give me a call when they knew something.

I went to Starbucks down the street and tried to read a book. They called. His kidneys were so far gone, whatever it was they tested for didn’t even register on their machine. It seemed there was no alternative but to put him to sleep. Did I want to be there? Of course I did.

They didn’t charge me for the euthanasia, and I hope I really did have the money I spent for what I was charged, but whether I went over my credit balance really wasn’t what I thought most important right then. I held him in my arms, and since he already had an insertion point taped to his leg, he was gone before I had expected. They gave me his collar, something he had always so proudly worn, the only cat I have had who didn’t try to lose it.

I cried all the way home, again stuck in rush hour traffic all the way back towards downtown, because today there would be a Lakers parade celebrating their NBA win.

It comes and goes, the waves of sadness. I have already thrown out his litter boxes, picked up the food and water dishes. I didn’t want to see the empty reminders of his being gone. I already can feel the apartment is emptier for his being gone.

I miss him dearly, my familiar, my warm fuzzy love. I don’t think I will be getting a new cat any time soon. I know I will eventually, but not for a few months at least. Maybe longer. Just not now.

Hamlin, still healthy just a few days ago

Taken by the catsitter... as of 6-17-10

2 Responses to “R.I.P. Hamlin”

  1. Steve Says:

    So sorry for your loss. I know that’s never easy to lose a close friend, furry or not, sounds like he was a great cat, and you two were lucky to have each other.

  2. Carol Elaine Says:

    Hamlin was a very good, very sweet cat, and you were a terrific kitty mommy. This sounds corny, but he’ll always be with you. This, I know.

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